Chicago, IL

Chicago Program Provides Hope for Teenage Girls in Mental Health Crisis Due to Trauma

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Counseling, mentoring make major difference in 65 Chicago schools through Working on Womanhood program

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed alarming statistics for high school girls in the United States in 2021. It indicated that close to 60% of these girls experienced ongoing feelings of sadness or hopelessness, nearly 20% encountered incidents of sexual violence, and 25% formulated plans for suicide. This distressing data has prompted healthcare professionals, educators, and policymakers across the nation to seek effective solutions.

Recent research suggests that a program based in Chicago, called Working on Womanhood (WOW), has the potential to serve as a blueprint for helping girls throughout the entire United States, with a particular focus on girls of color. This initiative aims to assist them in dealing with the trauma and emotional distress that many of them endure.

WOW is an education-based initiative that focuses on addressing trauma and improving the emotional well-being of adolescent girls in grades 6-12 who have been exposed to distressing experiences in high-risk and underserved neighborhoods. Employing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), this program is designed to enhance the social and emotional skills of these young women.

Established in 2011, WOW operates throughout the academic year and currently benefits approximately 2,600 students enrolled in 41 schools across various cities, including Chicagoland, Waukegan, Boston, Dallas, and Kansas City. Notably, WOW recently concluded a research study conducted by the University of Chicago Education Lab, aiming to assess the program's impact on the mental health and academic achievements of its participants

In the face of this concerning mental health crisis among teenage girls, the program, which has been implemented in 65 Chicago schools, is providing hope. Through the combination of trauma informed counseling and mentoring, this initiative is demonstrating promising results in supporting girls facing emotional and psychological challenges.

Amidst rising reports of teenage girls experiencing unprecedented levels of sadness, suicidal thoughts, and violence, a program in Chicago is making strides to address this alarming mental health crisis. This initiative has been providing a lifeline to adolescent girls in need.

The heart of the program lies in its approach to counseling and mentoring. Recognizing the unique emotional and psychological challenges faced by teenage girls, the program offers a supportive environment where they can express their feelings and concerns in a trauma informed appropach.

Counselors work closely with these girls, helping them navigate the complexities of their emotions and providing coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety. Additionally, mentors play a vital role by offering guidance, support, and a positive role model for these young individuals.

Early results from this program are encouraging. Girls participating in counseling and mentoring sessions are reporting improved emotional well-being and an increased sense of self-esteem. Moreover, instances of self-harm and violence have shown a decline among program participants.

The success of this initiative can be attributed to its comprehensive approach, addressing the mental health needs of teenage girls holistically. By fostering a safe space for open dialogue and offering guidance from experienced professionals, it aims to equip these girls with the tools they need to navigate the challenges of adolescence.

As the mental health crisis among teenage girls continues to escalate, the Chicago program stands as a beacon of hope. Its dedication to providing the necessary support and resources to empower girls to overcome emotional hurdles is making a tangible difference in their lives. In a world where mental health challenges often go unnoticed or untreated, this program exemplifies the impact that targeted intervention can have.

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